After storming through the field to finish fourth in last year’s N3TC Drak Challenge in partnership with FNB, Alan Houston says he is in better shape and wants to race onto the podium in 2020.
The Mooi River raised 22 year-old was a distant ninth after the short, sharp first stage last year, racing on a low Mzimkhulu River, before his barn-storming final stage into Early Mist Farm where he finished behind eventual winner Andy Birkett, Stew Little and Siseko Ntondini.
“I could see second and third in front of me at the finish, so I know I can go one better and get onto the podium,” said the Team Euro Steel racer.
He has spent the summer holidays training with his older brother Andrew for their Dusi Canoe Marathon challenge at the end of February, and when the rains fall he trains on the Mzimkhulu River.
He is eager to avoid falling behind on the first stage of the race again, and has a plan of attack should the race be held over the traditional first stage from Castleburn to Sinister Pool.
“You have to have a good start when the race starts at the top, that’s for sure,” said Houston. “Then stay out of trouble through to Black Murray.
“The chance to attack is in the final six or seven kays. That is where guys who have had to work too hard in the top section really pay,” he pointed out.
As one of the smaller men in the elite field Houston may be at an advantage in a low river. “But then look at guys like Hank (McGregor) and Andy (Birkett), they don’t let it faze them at all, They are just beasts!” he said.
“The thing with the Drak is that it is a throw of the dice on the first Day and then the second stage is a time trial. Whoever can pace themselves the best and have the cleanest lines will come out on top,” said Houston.
He added that he feels fit and fresh coming into the Drak season. He will be based between Ballito, his family home in Mooi River and his brothers home outside Himeville, ready to take advantage of full rivers after good rainfall.
“I have actually done the least amount of training this year due to work pressure, but I have managed to get really good results.
“Importantly there is no pain or soreness, which I have had in the past racing on low rivers,” he added.
“I will be there on the start line fit and ready to rumble at the Drak!” he concluded cheerfully.
The N3TC Drak Challenge canoe marathon takes place in Underberg on 1 and 2 February 2020.